Key CQ airport for fighting bushfires gets funding boost
HEDLOW airport has finally been guaranteed compensation by the State Government following damage to the runway during last November’s bushfires.
When the Cobraball bushfire burnt a devastating path across the Capricorn Coast, engulfing 12,100 hectares of land including 15 homes, 38 sheds, 8,500 hectares of grazing land and 275 hectares of horticultural production land, Hedlow was buzzing with waterbomber activity.
The air strips sustained wear and tear from the steady flow of aircraft landing to replenish their water and fuel supplies.
After concerted lobbying from One Nation’s candidate Wade Rothery, and Keppel MP Brittany Lauga, the Queensland Government will now provide the money necessary to bring the air strips up to scratch.
Airport manager Judy Moisy offered her thanks for the role played by Mr Rothery in pressuring the Labor Government to “make good” on repairing the damage.
Mr Rothery said he was pleased to have been able to help Judy and her family, and was grateful that the state government had “come to their senses”.
“The compensation will ensure the runway is returned to operational standards as we re-enter another dry fire season,” Mr Rothery said.
He said the runway on Old Byfield Road had been vital to the emergency helicopter and fixed-wing operations for almost a decade of floods and bush fires.
In 2011, when the property was purchased by a former Blackwater grazing family, they reopened the strip to aviators and gave permission for Capricorn Rescue to conduct winching exercises and night vision training.
Annual water bombing has also been conducted by emergency service personnel and the field has served as an emergency pick up point for the Royal Flying Doctor Service when Rockhampton’s commercial airport lay underwater and inoperable during the floods.
But as four waterbombing aircraft conducted countless takeoffs and landings, laden with 4-tonne payloads of crucial water in November 2019, they severely damaged the privately-owned airstrip.
The owners agreed that the damage to the runway was secondary to the lives and property they were helping to save.
“Judy and her family have never asked the State Government for a cent to use the airfield over the last nine years,” Mr Rothery said.
“They’ve seen it as a part of their community service, but after seven days of relentless and tireless work to assist fire crews on the ground, the damage bill to the Hedlow airstrip was far too much for this family to wear the cost of.
“The compensation will ensure repairs to the airstrip are carried out sooner rather than later, which will assist in future emergency aircraft assistance to the region.”
In her role as the incumbent state MP, Ms Lauga said she had always advocated for the compensation of the Hedlow Airport.
“I am so pleased that I was able to help the air strip recover after the devastating Cobraball bushfires of 2019,” Ms Lauga said.
“One Nation are just throwing mud on the achievements of Labor Government’s at a time they should be supportive of all our hard work to keep the Keppel community safe and in jobs.
“This is just another way the Palaszczuk Labor Government is investing in infrastructure so our regions’ economy can recover from COVID-19.”